Lets Make Crazy Normal: Anxiety

So here’s the thing… I suffer from anxiety and I’m just on the right side of afternoon boozing to mention it. Some folk advocate writing drunk and editing sober… and I couldn’t agree with this more! I’ve had it consistently for about 8 years now, on and off medication and used and abused 2 therapists. The first therapist I had was so distractingly hot but such a pain in the ass!

She was very smiley and overly helpful at first, but she also made me feel like I was an inconvenience by cancelling at the last minute. So I sacked her off after 3 sessions of telling me things I had already self-diagnosed on Google. (FYI... the brain tumour Google told me I had was in fact a lie) I left it for a few months feeling weak and ashamed for originally asking for help, until one of my anxiety attacks spiralled somewhat and a friend said if I didn’t sort it out she would call my mother! So I panicked, dropped the pretence of "I'm fiiiiine!" and found another therapist. She wasn’t so attractive but I was there to get help and not French kiss a middle aged woman! Christ… focus Shem! The first session I had she asked me if I ever thought about committing suicide. It was a baptism of fire where I was leaning more towards a baptism of glitter and cute puppies for my first meeting! Needless to say I left the room sobbing but thinking I would stick it out… and thank the baby Jesus I did.

I don’t wanna list all the emotions that depict how truly rubbish an anxiety disorder is because that’s like describing being punched in the face. The words are unnecessary as we all can imagine that it’s fairly unpleasant. Anxiety has successfully ruled my life for what seems like forever and has made me feel like I’m a big ball of crazy. In fairness I do wear my ‘crazy’ a little bit louder and prouder than most… but enduring anxiety attacks every other day made me believe I was Lady GaGa mental with a touch of Angelina Jolie when she was going through that phase of wearing vials of blood around her neck and snogging her brother! I’ve had meltdowns in the shopping aisles of Tesco, wandered off on my own on nights out and cried to complete strangers.

The first time I had an anxiety attack I was in the cinema trying to watch The Da Vinci Code. Next minute I was doubled up on the floor of the ladies toilet unable to breathe bawling my eyes out. I was terrified but had no idea what was up so put it down to having a dramatic hangover. I kept it a secret for years because I was embarrassed… plain and simple. How do I even attempt to explain something that I didn’t really understand myself? Oh and of course everyone would obviously judge me. I already ticked so many boxes… black, female, gay, awesome hair… I wasn’t gonna add ‘bat shit crazy’ to that list! No sir… not on my watch!

My only way to make crazy seem normal was to continue as if all was well. But who knew that avoiding a problem simply fast tracked you to a repeat prescription for anti-depressants.

It wasn’t until I moved to Dublin and after making a holy show of myself in various situations, that I decided to take a rain check on anxiety. Therapy was the most fulfilling, enlightening and expensive gift I had given myself since I bought my shiny saxophone that I still can’t play. Every Thursday for an hour of pennies dropping everywhere and connecting the dots to shit I was always too scared to say out loud. Talking to a stranger is awesome. Everyone needs a therapist! They will not pander to you because they’re not your friend, have zero to gain and owe you nothing. Friends are fabulous but there will always be a biased flaw in their advice… a sugar coating of the unpleasantly obvious if you will. A stranger will smash you around the face with the ugly truth whether you like it or not. It is this which helps you make sense of the whys and the why the hell nots. My therapist was making the crazy seem normal and by the end of it all I could’ve French kissed her… but pretty sure that's just sexual assault.

I still have my moments here and there but nothing as mortifying as executing the foetal position at a bus stop in Brixton! After discovering techniques to control my anxiety and building a few bridges then proceeding to throw myself over said bridge… I have found one practice that pulls me out of the funk… and that is the art of Tarantism. I came across this word recently and I can’t get it out of my head. Apparently it is the uncontrollable urge to dance which was thought to have been caused by the bite of a tarantula way back in 15th century Italy. It is also believed to help overcome melancholy by dancing!

SO I’m ignoring the scary spider part and running with the idea that we can all shake off the bad vibes in our lives by throwing a few shapes! Sure medication works and yes therapy was ideal for me… but when you need an instant pick me up because the gods are taking the piss, there’s nothing quite like dancing your ass off! Try it… whack on some music and body pop within an inch of your life! I guarantee that after you’ve given yourself a stich and had a mini heart attack… you will be feeling just a little bit perkier.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that anxiety is always going to be in my life… but if I can put in place certain exercises to control it better/stop freaking out innocent members of the public… then I can certainly live with that. I’m not entirely sure if me rambling on has been helpful or if it’s just words… littered on a screen… asking you to love them! BUT alas here we are. I’m off to dance to Whitney BC… that’s Whitney before crack! Thank you and goodnight.

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